Regime continues violating Sochi deal, killing civilians in Idlib

Published 18.02.2019 00:02

Despite the Sochi agreement reached by Turkey and Russia to preserve the cease-fire in Idlib, Syrian regime forces continue to violate the deal with attacks carried out in the southern parts of the province.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 18 civilians including eight children were killed on Saturday in artillery attacks by the Syrian regime and Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Khan Sheikhoun city in the southern suburbs of Idlib, situated inside the de-escalation zone. Similar attacks targeted the towns of Syria's Jarjanaz, Tal Minnis, Ma'arshemmarin, Ma'arshamasha, and Al-Tih.

Regime's forces continue to systematically attack Idlib's largest civilian settlements, where hundreds of thousands civilians live, Mustafa Haj Yusuf, the head of Idlib's White Helmets, a Syrian civil defense group told Anadolu Agency (AA). Stressing that a wave of migration took place in the Al-Ghab Plain in the countryside of northwestern Hama province, Yusuf said some of the people in the districts of Khan Sheikhoun and Maaret al-Noman fled to underground shelters and other areas due to assaults carried out by the regime.

The Sochi agreement was reached on Sept. 17 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. According to the agreement the cease-fire in the Idlib region will be preserved, with the withdrawal of heavy arms and radicals from the region. Prior to the agreement, the Assad regime was signaling a grand operation toward Idlib, which is the last stronghold of the opposition, sparking deep fears in the international community of a new humanitarian crisis.

As Turkey and Russia stepped in and averted a possible disaster, the Sochi deal was internationally welcomed. In relation to the implementation of the agreement, Turkish and Russian officials have been taking positive stances, stressing that the process has been continuing in line with the deal.

Yet the regime and its supporters have been attempting to violate the agreement. Since the Sochi agreement in September, more than two dozen civilians have lost their lives in attacks by the regime with many injured.

The National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces also condemned on Saturday Assad regime forces' violations of the Sochi cease-fire deal.

In a written statement, the coalition called upon the international community to put an end to the attacks, saying that these assaults "prove without doubt that the Assad regime insists on its bloody behavior and on blocking all political processes sparing the country more death and destruction."

"The Assad regime and its allied militias continue to violate all conventions in place. The regime's intensified shelling has killed more than 100 civilians, including 15 civilians who were killed in a week in Khan Sheikhoun alone. The shelling continues despite the Idlib agreement establishing a demilitarized zone and calling for a cease-fire in the province," the statement added. While the regime forces have been continuing their assaults, opposition forces withdrew their heavy arms by Oct. 10. As part of its effort to provide a resolution for the ongoing Syrian conflict, Turkey has been holding talks with various countries to take concrete steps. A tripartite summit was held in Sochi last week with the participation of Turkish, Russian and Iranian leaders. "Syrian people, particularly our brothers in Idlib, suffered a lot in the last eight years," Erdoğan said last week, following his meeting with Putin. He added that Turkey would continue to do its part to uphold the Idlib deal and called on the Syrian regime to honor the cease-fire. Putin also acknowledged that they need to agree on lowering the tensions in Idlib.

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